On Monday, the U.S. Embassy commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation – President Lincoln’s landmark order freeing American slaves. To celebrate the occasion, we held an event at Meta House, where we screened a movie depicting the lives of two slaves, one from America in the 1800s, the other from present-day Cambodia.
The event was both a celebration of the end of legal slavery and a call for action to end human trafficking, a modern-day form of slavery with an estimated 27 million victims – men, women, and children around the globe.
The Cambodian who in the film, Prum Vannak, was recognized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this year as a hero of the anti-trafficking in persons movement. Vannak was lured to Thailand by the promise of employment, but instead was sold into slavery on a fishing boat. Vannak’s heroic story of survival and escape from pain and injustice is tremendously moving. It is also a cautionary tale for anyone thinking about pursing a job opportunity that sounds just too good to be true. His captors – and many others like them – are still out there, luring unsuspecting new victims into forced labor. Today, Vannak is an international spokesman raising awareness about human trafficking by using art to tell his story.
Human trafficking is a serious problem in Cambodia, and fighting it will continue to be one of our Embassy’s top priorities. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is funding a $5.4 million campaign to combat human trafficking through prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership – the “4Ps.” I find the last “P,” partnership, the key because ending modern slavery requires a wide range of partners: civil society, the faith community, the private sector, and committed individuals.
Cambodia has made great progress in combating trafficking in persons. Yet, there is still much work to be done, so I urge all Cambodians to join us in this effort to eradicate the scourge of slavery once and for all.